I finally got around to playing Nightfall yesterday, and I thought I'd give it a mention.
In case you haven't heard of it, Nightfall is another deck building game from AEG, makers of Thunderstone. This one has a vampires vs werewolves vs humans theme, and it's a lot of fun.
Now if you read about the creatures of the night and said, "In!" you should know what you're in for, 'cause there are some aspects of the game that didn't really bother me, but could be a real issue for some gamers. I'll get to those in a minute.
Nightfall has been described as a cross between Dominion and Magic: the Gathering. It may seem that Dominion is MtG meets MtG without collectible cards, but there are some differences. In Nightfall, you lay out minions who block attacks from an opposing player's minions that are otherwise headed straight for you.
Each game has a stack of wound cards and whenever a hit gets through to you, you have to add one to your deck. The game ends when a pre-determined number of wounds run out. Whoever has the least wounds is the winner (there are different types of wounds which help break ties).
In addition to minions, there are orders (spells). These let you do things like directly attack other players, destroy minions, pull cards out of your discard pile, etc.
So in those ways, it's like MtG.
Each round you have Combat, then Chain (which is the really unique aspect of the game, and I'll get to it next), then Claim and finally Clean-Up. Claiming is where it's like Dominion. You have eight stacks of cards (minions and orders) that are the common stock. You buy them using Influence. You automatically have 2 Influence each round, but can gain more from cards, or discarding cards from your hand. Each of the cards in the stock costs a certain amount of Influence, and there's no limit on the number you can buy. The cards you buy go into your discard pile to become part of your deck for future use.
One interesting twist to the stock, though, is that each player has two private stacks, available only to them. At the start of the game, you deal four cards from the draft pile to each player. They choose one, then pass the three remaining to the next player who chooses another card. Then you pass again and pick one to go in the center, common stock. The last one goes back in the box. Then you deal into the common stock however many draft cards you need to bring the stock up to eight. The rules are slightly different for two players, but the end result is the same. This is a nice aspect to the deck building, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it catch on in the genre.
Okay, Chaining. This is where the game kinda takes off, but it's also the start of what may be less than appealing to some. The way to get your minions into your play area and also to play your orders is through chaining. Each card has one large colored moon on it. Most also have two smaller colored moons (the starting deck cards only have one smaller moon). You start your chain by laying down a card. You may then lay another card on top of that if it's big moon matches the color of the previous cards small moon. You can keep doing this until you run out of playable cards. Then your opposing players can do the same on top of the chain you've started. After everyone gets one go, you go back through the chain and activate the cards. Minions will go into your play area (and may have a chain action that takes effect) and Orders will do whatever they do. Most cards also have a Kicker on them, which is a special power that will activate if the moon next to the Kicker text matches the moon it's linked to. It's a lot of fun, and you have to be careful because the temptation is to keep laying down cards to get the longest chain you can, but sometimes the card will be useless in the chain (and might have been better used to discard for more Influence or hold onto for the next round) or, even worse, will do something that doesn't benefit you at all (like permanently destroy one of the cards in your discard pile - useful if there's a Wound in there, but not at all, usually). It really sets the game apart, but I can imagine some people seeing this aspect as gimmicky since it's entirely a mechanic of the game and doesn't serve any aspect of the story.
And if that carries through to other aspects of the game, too. The game takes precedent over the world here. The background text in the manual sets up a world where the vamps and lycans and humans are all against each other, but the game doesn't do this at all. Your deck will have all three races in it battling against the other players' similar mixture. Even worse, for some, is the fact that each stack of dominions in the stock (common or private) is made up of exactly the same named characters. So instead of sending, say, your Nosferatu into battle, you'll sometimes have Franz Orlock fighting against two other Franz Orlocks. It really doesn't ruin the game at all, if you can get past it, but some may not be able to do so.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with the game. Kickers are a little too difficult to get. Some cards are crazy powerful (Destroy Minion, for example), but it lends itself to the game over world aspect. Things move fast, and it's more about the process than losing yourself in the world. Instead of conjuring some incredibe spell to take out that hulking beast who seems to be blocking all of your attacks while snarling at you, it's about taking out that minion card quickly in the right place in the chain, so you can get give your opponent a wound card or two.